Vice President Kamala Harris held her second call with a foreign leader this week, without President Joe Biden present.
Former Vice President Mike Pence rarely took direct calls with foreign leaders — that was the role of then-President Donald J. Trump, who spoke on his own behalf.
When Mr. Biden invited Republican senators to the White House to reach a bipartisan deal on coronavirus relief this month, it was his chief of staff, not the president, who set the tone of the meeting.
Mr. Biden was “very engaged and well-prepared” for the meeting, Sen. Kevin Cramer told The Hill, “but I also heard that his chief of staff stood at the back of the room and shook his head ‘no’ for every [Republican] point,” the North Dakota Republican said.
Not surprisingly, after the meeting, Biden Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the White House was going to push through their relief package, even if it failed to draw Republican support. This is not at all the bipartisan approach Mr. Biden promised to deliver on the campaign trail.
With Ms. Harris taking a lead in diplomacy and White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain dominating the outcome of White House meetings, one has to wonder: Who is calling the shots at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?
Is it possible Mr. Biden is merely a figurehead, and Ms. Harris and Mr. Biden‘s staff are the ones setting the policy agenda and running his White House?
It certainly seems so.
“The President himself would tell you that we keep him pretty busy, and he has a full schedule this week,” Ms. Psaki told reporters in a Feb. 8th press briefing. Note the phrasing, “we” the staff, keep the president busy.
When Ms. Psaki punished Deputy Press Secretary TJ Ducklo after reports he threatened a female reporter, Ms. Psaki noted she didn’t discuss the action with President Biden, nor was she aware if the president even knew of Mr. Ducklo’s misdeeds.
Why would that be? It was the president himself who said last month: “If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot.”
However, Mr. Ducklo wasn’t fired on the spot, he only resigned after reports of his actions went public. Why wasn’t President Biden informed at the get-go if he was so passionate about maintaining a respectful staff?
It’s Ms. Psaki’s job to speak for the president, but one has to wonder, how often does she actually speak with him? Where does she get her marching orders?
In a town hall this week, President Biden said there was “miscommunication” when Ms. Psaki issued back-to-school guidance from the White House podium declaring the Biden administration’s goal of reopening schools in their first 100 days was more than 50% of schools being open at least one day a week.
“No, that’s not true. That’s what was reported; that’s not true. There was a mistake in the communication,” President Biden told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
So, did Ms. Psaki just make up those figures? Her guidance clearly didn’t come from the president himself.
The Biden campaign was always a tightly scripted affair, with staff limiting his exposure to the American public. When then-presidential candidate Biden would attend an outside event, he regularly read off a teleprompter and took no questions. During the rare “press conference,” Mr. Biden’s staff would call upon preselected reporters, who lobbed him softballs.
The Biden White House operates no differently. More questions should be focused on who behind the scenes is pulling the strings, and less on the president himself. For that’s where the true power lies, and real policies will be crafted.